18 Gentle Muscle Stretching Exercises - Part 1

Part 1 of 2 videos, showing 18 very gentle muscle stretching exercises, for the neck, shoulders and arms, which have helped me with my ME. Do not push yourself with these stretches, and stop a long time before you feel any pain or discomfort, dizziness or exhaustion. Before you start to try any of them for yourself, it is very important that you do go through them all carefully with your own doctor, physiotherapist or chiropractor first.

 

Hello! Something that has really helped me a lot, and some other people with ME, and fibromyalgia, is very gentle muscle stretching exercises. These are NOT aerobic or “cardio” exercises, which usually make people with ME feel more ill - but these should NOT be strenuous, and shouldn’t make the heart rate go up very much. Now, I DON’T believe that “de-conditioning” (of our muscles and so on) is a significant limiting factor for keeping us ill with ME. But, together with the muscle relaxation techniques, I do believe these can really help to maintain or re-gain reasonable muscle tone and strength and improve flexibility and mobility while we are not able to do physical activities or exercise at any sort of normal level. I think if our muscles are working more efficiently, then we actually don’t need to use so much energy to do the same movements. They can also help to release and free tension that’s built up in the muscles, which can sometimes also help to reduce pain, as well as helping to eliminate toxins and improve blood flow throughout different parts of the body.

A good physiotherapist or chiropractor who has got specialist experience of treating people with ME will be able to teach you and help you with stretching and muscle relaxation exercises. I am going to show you the ones that I have used. But before you start to try any of them for yourself, it is very important that you do go through them all carefully with your own doctor, physiotherapist or chiropractor first.

How much people will be able to do will be different for everyone. But remember, that the old saying “no pain means no gain” is really NOT true with ME. So before you start on anything like this, try to think how much you would be able to do these exercises before they would start to make you feel exhausted - but instead stop when you get to about two thirds of that level, however little that is. Hopefully over time, how much you could do will increase, and you will be able to build up the amount, still sticking at just two thirds of what you could do. So maybe just start with a couple of the exercises, just once a day, and if you find they’re helping, and you can do more without pushing yourself, then build up to half a dozen or more exercises, two or three times a day, - they don’t take long!

Get yourself feeling warm and comfortable before you start, and maybe do some relaxation first.

Do the muscle stretches SLOWLY, enjoy them, and feel a GENTLE sensation of tension in your muscles, but do NOT do them hard enough to cause you any pain at all. And remember to breathe, gently - breathing OUT deeply as you do each stretch.

We’ll start with the neck and shoulders and arms in this video. In the next video, we’ll lie down and gently stretch the legs. So many people with ME seem to have really bad neck stiffness, which can be associated with dizziness, nausea, feeling like you’re travelsick, headaches, not being able to read or see properly, and possibly even all the effects of the hypothalamus going wrong. With the neck especially, it is extremely important not to hurt yourself, but to do these movements very gently, especially when you are first doing them. Never use additional weights or other equipment, and never do these exercises too hard or too often that they cause you any pain at all. If you do too much, you might feel more dizzy soon after you have done neck exercises, so it is very important that you start off very gently, only doing one or two the first time, and see how you get on, before you try maybe doing more on other days.

1. Circling shoulders: First, circle your shoulders forwards 3 times - slowly. And then backwards 3 times - slowly. If you want, you can put your fingers on your shoulders while you do this.

2. Neck - left and right: Keeping your head and neck totally upright, slowly turn to look to your left. Remember you’re looking for a gentle sensation of tension, do not turn so far that it causes you any pain. Then look straight ahead again, and then turn to look to your right. Aim to do each stretch 3 times, in each direction. And to start with, just hold them for a couple of seconds, but if you can without causing any pain or discomfort, then gradually build it up to hold the stretches for 10 seconds. Remember to breathe out with each stretch. These exercises help to build up flexibility and mobility, you can also do very gentle resistance exercises to increase strength when you are able to. Put your hand up against your temple, and very gently try to turn your head against it. Breathe out each time. And the same the other side.

3. Neck - ears to shoulders: Keeping looking straight ahead, gently bend your head over to the left, with your ear reaching down towards your shoulder. And then straight up. And then over to the right. Three times in each direction. Breathe out with each stretch. You can add doing this as a resistance exercise too if you are able to.

4. Neck - up and down: Keeping looking straight ahead, very slowly and gently bend your head backwards as far as it will go without hurting. Breathe out and hold. Then look straight ahead again, and then very gently tuck in your chin and move your head down with your chin reaching down towards your chest. If you start to feel any discomfort or dizziness at all, then stop. And wait until another day and then try it a lot more gently. Remember, pushing these exercises can make you feel worse, but doing them very gently may be able to help you. If you are able to, then you can do the resistance exercises, cupping your hands behind your head, and gently leaning your head back. And then holding your hands against your forehead and gently pushing against them.

5. Windmill arms: Keeping your arm as straight as possible, and as straight ahead as possible, do a slow windmill movement with your arm, forwards 3 times - and then backwards 3 times. And repeat with the other arm.

6. Diagonal arms behind back: Put one arm behind your back, and the other over your shoulder, diagnoally, link your hands together, and very gently stretch - 3 times, and then do it the other way round.

7. Push forward (stretch between shoulder blades): To stretch between your shoulder blades, link your hands with your arms out in front of you, and gently push forwards - remembering to breathe out. Three times.

8. Hand over shoulder (triceps): Put your right hand over your left shoulder, with your elbow level, and gently push across, stretching your triceps. While you’re doing that, you can also move your head to look to the right, while you gently turn your body and shoulders to the left. And the same the other way round.

9. Hand on back (triceps): Put your right hand down behind your back, in line with your spine, and gently push downwards, stretching your triceps. Three times. And the same on the left side.

10. Arms out: Hold your arms out to the side, then lift up your forearms towards upright, very gently stretching them backwards, breathing out as you do that.

Only as you are able to do any of these exercises without any pain or discomfort or dizziness or exhaustion, but only a gentle feeling that your muscles have been working, then very gradually build up how many you do, and how far you can stretch - but only ever within the limits of what you can do without pushing yourself. If you start to have any problems at all doing any stretching exercises, then stop them, and go back to your doctor, physio or chiropractor again for more advice. But if you are able to do some of these, very gently, under medical advice, then I hope you enjoy them, and I hope they help!